The drought conditions which have affected Barbados and other countries in the region since late 2014 are expected to subside by the start of the 2016 hurricane season, according to the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH)
However, in its latest seasonal climate forecast issued today, CIMH warned that in place of the extreme dry conditions, the region should prepare for the risks of landslides and flashfloods, as the rains return.
The forecast comes after many months of warmer and drier than average conditions in the Caribbean fueled by El Niño, a warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific which has implications for weather patterns around the world, including drought in many regions.
After the forecasted weakening of El Niño, its counterpart La Niña (a cooling of the Pacific) may take over and affect the region in the latter part of 2016. It is likely to result in higher than normal rainfall and stronger storm systems. And while near to above average rainfall is expected to ease the drought across the Caribbean later this year, CIMH advises that areas experiencing long-term dryness will be more susceptible to hazards such as landslides and flashfloods, once rains return in excessive amounts.
“Limited rainfall over the last few months has left many parts of the Caribbean with dry, compacted soils,” explained Adrian Trotman, agrometeorologist and Chief of Applied Meteorology and Climatology at CIMH.
“As a result, heavy rainfall will not be easily absorbed by affected soil which increases the risk of flooding.”
Trotman said that recent advances in climate forecasting services for the Caribbean now means that government planners and other bodies can now make important decisions based on seasonal forecasts up to three to six months in advance.
“We know that advanced warning of an extreme event like a hurricane can help us to be more prepared. The same now applies for longer-term climatic events and this means that the sooner we can have an early warning of changing conditions the longer time we have to prepare and be more effective at mitigating those impacts,” he said.
On Wednesday, CIMH will host a press conference at the Savannah Hotel to discuss what the forecast means for the Caribbean, and in particular how its early climate warning information products can help the region’s six climate-sensitive sectors – agriculture, disaster management, energy, health, tourism and water – prepare for and adapt to what is expected to be a more intense hurricane season. (PR)